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'Modern Family' recap: I feel the Earth move under my feet

October 7, 2010 |  6:50 am


For anyone who’s ever wished for a natural disaster to get them out of a social obligation, Wednesday night’s episode of “Modern Family” will strike a nerve.  Who among us hasn’t crossed our fingers and prayed for a blizzard to get out of things like our boss’ daughter’s 3rd birthday party?  Of course, on “Modern Family” the dreaded event is an Oscar Wilde-N’-Crazy Brunch hosted by someone named Pepper Saltzman, but you get the idea. 

The theme of this week’s earthquaking episode was getting saved.  For young Manny, it’s a spiritual question.  When Jay ditches church, Manny decides to tag along — much to his mother’s dismay.  “Jooou are going to spend eternity together!”  she tells them.  But Manny, always the worrywart, starts to second-guess his decision, and Jay, a member of the Church of Golf, isn’t exactly prepared for Manny’s theological interrogation.  “I’m skipping church based on a hunch?” Manny asks in horror. 

For Phil, the earthquake is a blessing in disguise.  He’s neglected to complete one of Claire’s many home improvement tasks, adding a bracket to the back of an enormous cabinet.  To be more precise, he’s lied about having done it.  As Phil puts it, “I had no choice but to roll up my sleeves and tell her I did it.”  The little fib has come back to haunt him, as the cabinet nearly squashes Luke.  Leave it to “Modern Family” to make a joke out of the near-death of children — and to top it off with the said child slamming into a wall face-first (something else I’m adding to my list of “things that are always funny”: people walking into walls.)  I love the way this show can take on certain sacred cows — like joking about the death of children — yet also be, at its core, totally wholesome. 

Finally, for Cameron and Mitchell, the earthquake provides the perfect excuse for getting out of Pepper’s latest elaborately themed gay brunch.  (Other recent events:  “Seder-day Night Fever,” “Studio 54th of July”) A few tremors, and they’re saved — or so they think.  Once the quake subsides. Mitchell forces Cameron to call and say they can’t make it.  Pepper (Nathan Lane) is clearly a high-maintenance friend, the one who won’t accept a polite “So sorry we can’t make it,” or even a polite, “Hey, you do realize there was just an earthquake, don’t you?”  Cameron has to fib, something he’s both terrible at and morally opposed to doing.  Soon enough, Pepper is at their door, and the lies — courtesy of Mitchell — only become more elaborate. The reason they can’t come to brunch is that Cameron still hasn’t resolved his feelings for Pepper, more than a decade after they briefly dated. In the end, the joke is on “mafia wife” Cameron — and his porcelain frog. 

The characters on “Modern Family” learn the hard way: Be careful what you wish for. 

 Best lines:

“What’s the hot topic on ‘The View’ today, ladies?”  --Phil, ever the model of maturity, mediating a fight between his daughters

“Mitchell used to caddy for me, 'course he spent most of his time chasing butterflies.” -- Jay

 “You won’t catch me doing that. I’m terrified of butterflies.” -- Manny

“We’re not playing ‘Good Cop-Mom.’”  -- Phil

"We lost Phil!?" --Gloria, misinterpreting Mitchell on the phone

“It was the '90s, we just lost Princess Di.”  --Cameron, on why he dated Pepper in the first place 

“I got scared because the cabinet didn’t fall down.” -- Luke

“You’re playing pretty fast and loose with my soul.”  -- Manny

"A hat rack ... felt out the window."  -- Cameron

“Don’t go to any trouble. I’ll just have a Kir Royale.”  -- Pepper, after Mitchell offers him a drink

“No, you’re not a joke, you’re Pepper Saltzman.” –- Cameron

“You’re like a mob wife. You look down on me and my mob ways but you’re happy to wear the mink coat that fell off the back of the truck.”  --Mitchell 

“Sometimes when God closes the door, he closes it so hard that your wife can’t get out.” –- Phil

“I couldn’t find any straws so you’ll have to drink it like cats.”  -- Luke

-- Meredith Blake 



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Photo: Pepper Saltzman (Nathan Lane) surveys the damage at Cameron's (Eric Stonestreet) tiny house.  

Credit: ABC/Mitchell Haddad